Miguel Ángel López (Astana) joined a chorus of critics who unloaded on archrival Movistar in the aftermath of a mid-stage crash that threw the Vuelta a España into controversy Friday.
López was caught up in a massive, mid-stage pileup that included race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and a dozen or so others. Movistar and other teams pressed the pace at the front as fallen riders were desperate to chase back.
“Well, that’s the kind of world champion we have,” López told RTVE. “What they did was a lack of respect for the race leader and other riders. That’s how they race. It’s not the first time they’ve done this.”
The Colombian’s no-holds-barred comments came at the end of a controversial and chaotic day at the Vuelta. A crash with about 65km to go and heavy crosswinds blew the peloton into shards in a rolling transition stage. Rather than routine, the stage turned upside down.
López and Roglic were among the top GC riders caught up in the crash. The peloton was on a narrow, sweeping road along a steep wall lining a village when it appeared riders crossed wheels, taking several riders down, including race leader Roglic and white jersey holder López.
Both took several minutes to remount their bikes before taking up the chase. A breakaway group was already up the road, including Lawson Craddock (EF-Education First) and Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo), but all eyes were on the main GC pack.
Movistar and other riders who avoided the crash regrouped at the front in the wake of the crash and pressed the action, sending panic waves bolting through the peloton.
“I was a little unlucky,” Roglic said. “I was there when they crashed. I hit the wall, but some guys are a lot of worse. I am still here, and that is good. I don’t now much about what happened. We need to see it later on the replay, and then I can comment. I tried to get my new bike and go full gas to chase them back.”
The peloton had splintered into about five groups, with Roglic chasing more than one minute in arrears.
It appeared the UCI did not impose a barrage — a blockage of team cars to prevent riders from taking tows — and in effect allowed chasing riders to regain contact with the lead group by pacing off the team cars driving between the groups.
“If [Movistar] were riding beforehand — if they weren’t, then that’s shocking,” Ineos rider Owain Doull told Eurosport. “Every team has their leader on the ground, and to go in the gutter then? That’s not a classy thing in my eyes. It’s not as if they were at it for a few K’s and sat up. They were at it for a good while. If I was Roglic and Jumbo, I would not be happy. Every day has been savage in this Vuelta.”
The gap to Roglic and López grew to about one minute before Movistar eased off the pressure.
It appeared that Movistar slowed the pace when it was obvious that rival team cars were allowed to pace back the chasing riders.
Movistar sport director José Luís Arrieta insisted that his team has often been at the wrong side of a crash scenario, and wondered why everyone was so upset at them.
“This kind of thing has happened to us before with Alejandro in the Tour or the Vuelta, but no one asked why no one waited for Alejandro then,” Arrieta angrily said. “There have been other times that it’s happened to us, and the UCI didn’t take this decision for us. I don’t like seeing anyone crash. We’ve lost races because of a crash. The decision to sit up was ours, but after the jury said that they were going to pace back the riders behind the cars.”
The main GC pack regrouped, and despite another split in crosswinds, the favorites came in together behind stage-winner Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who attacked out of the break to win.
There were no major shakeups on GC, but nerves and tempers were frayed at the line.
López refused to hold back his frustration and openly criticized Movistar.
“When we fell, there were 20 riders or more on the ground, and it’s always the same ones who take advantage of situations like that,” López said. “It’s not the first time it’s happened, and we’ve seen it before in other races. It’s always the same idiots who do it in other races. It’s their way to race and act, and that’s always how they react.”
The Vuelta’s final mountain stage should decide everything Saturday. Nerves will be ratcheted even higher.